Photo exhibit focuses on rural California |

Photo exhibit focuses on rural California

Photographer Morgan Peterson is excited to display her work at the Off The Beaten Path Bookstore in downtown Steamboat Springs. Most of the images come from a personal project in which Peterson recorded images in her hometown of Raymond, Calif.
John F. Russell

— Not much has changed in Raymond, Calif., since Morgan Peterson grew up there.

More accurately, not much has changed in Raymond since the turn of the 20th century.

“The same old cowboy is on the porch that was there when I was 4, and there are still no modern buildings,” Peterson said. “It’s like a time capsule.”

There’s a casino about 10 miles away, and Yosemite National Park isn’t far. But Raymond isn’t on the way to either – there’s no reason to go there unless that’s where you’re going.

“You’re going to Raymond for a purpose; you’re not just driving through. So it’s untouched in that way,” said Peterson, an art teacher at Steamboat Springs High School. A documentary photo exhibit of Peterson’s hometown opens with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. today at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. The show, titled “Everybody Loves Raymond, CA,” is part of First Friday Artwalk.

Shot throughout about a year and a half in about 10 visits to Raymond, the show recognizes a shift in the way Peterson saw the place where she grew up – a place that has no more than 400 people, no gas station, no grocery store, no shopping and one saloon.

“It was really fun when I was a little kid and really embarrassing when I was in high school,” Peterson said, comparing Raymond to nearby Oakhurst, where she went to school for ninth through 12th grades.

Coming back through Raymond after she graduated college, the things that looked backward to Peterson in high school started to look unique.

“To be able to go back and not only change my own personal feelings about the place, but to be able to appreciate the culture” have been direct results of the documentary project, Peterson said.

Because she grew up there, Peterson had access to people and places of Raymond that outsiders never would be granted.

“They’re not just going to let you come in and put a camera in their face if they don’t know who you are,” she said. Her photos capture everyday life in a way that would look posed if Peterson’s subjects hadn’t known her in her preschool days. All the photos are shot on black-and-white film, giving the images an antique feel. Peterson said she prefers the process to anything more modern – and acknowledges how fitting the time-consuming development is for the project.

“I like the fact that when you shoot film, you’re immersed in it,” she said. “You don’t know exactly what you’re going to get, and it’s kind of exciting.”

The title for the show comes in part from the popular TV show but mostly from the affect Raymond has on people who take the time to look at it, Peterson said.

“Everyone sees this really old town and loves it because it’s so far removed from what you see every day.”

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